Colin Powell’s Feckless Attacks on Conservatism

Voice of Reason?

The only thing worse than a has-been is one who won’t acknowledge that status and simply fade away. Former Secretary of State and general Republican malcontent Colin Powell has for two presidential election seasons endorsed Barack Obama over moderate Republicans who ought to have been to his liking. Since Powell desires nothing more than to avoid the charge of hypocrisy because he rose to prominence due in part to misguided policies of affirmative action, and since he is obsessed with maintaining his allegedly “moderate” position, I think it’s time for him to leave the Republican Party.  It’s not that I care about the Republican party so much that I desperately wish for him to leave it, as it is the fact that this ideological garbage-receptacle is hauled out by the media as some kind of authority on Republicans and conservatism, as though despite his last two endorsements, he could possibly preserve any credibility with those who fit these approximate descriptions.  Colin Powell is a fraud, but the media gives him airtime precisely because it’s his goal to damage conservatism in exchange for positive press.  In the venue that is the study of political philosophy, Colin Powell is a circus madhouse of self-contradictory posturing who provides a good deal of haughty noise but evinces no substance.

Consider this video as the latest exhibit in evidence of my thesis:

Seldom will you see aggregated in such a fashion the grotesque spectacle of a mind at war with itself.  Contrary to what some might assert, this does not make the former Secretary of State “thoughtful,” but merely muddled and confused like a football player who’s taken one-too-many shots to the head.  There is no virtue in his convoluted positions, to the degree they are discernible among the loosely connected philosophical wreckage, but let us imagine that we were to seriously consider the things this man has said, and so examine them in light of the facts.

Let us examine his claim that “there is a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party.”  The first “evidence” he goes out of his way to offer as evidence is a statement by Sarah Palin about President Obama’s “shucking and jiving” over Benghazi, suggesting that this was a racially-tinged statement.   Apart from the fact that Governor Palin has never exhibited the first inclination to racism, apparently, Colin Powell believes that phrase has been used exclusively to describe the behavioral pattern of blacks held in bondage during slavery, and through the pre-civil rights era.  That’s an utter falsehood, but leave it to Powell to be so racially tuned as to mind-meld with the crowd which professes these myths to our youngsters on college campuses around the country.  A “moderate Republican” such as he takes the opportunity to attack Sarah Palin for alleged racism in the party?  I think it is only through the lens of focused, narrow-minded racism that one could begin to assert such an underlying motive on her behalf due solely to the choice of that phrase. In truth, the term “shuck and jive,” despite its ancient origins, is exactly as racist in contemporary terms as the pronouncement of our President’s middle name, and for precisely the same dishonest reasons.

Three times during the course of this interview, Powell couldn’t wait to push the immigration mantra of the GOP establishment, and it boggles the mind that any person, least of all Colin Powell, doesn’t understand the grave national security risks in the continuance of our current open-borders policy.  Here is a man urging Republicans to bend to the pragmatism of changing demographics while he continues to push for acceleration in that change.  Does he seriously expect to win an argument with right-thinking people who note wryly that far more people are murdered each year by illegal immigrants than by so-called “assault weapons” since that term of weapons classification became law in 1994? [1]

The problem is that Powell isn’t satisfied with a conservative party, or one even vaguely trending in that direction.  If you listen carefully to his litany of top policy priorities, it sounds like the platform of the Democrat National Convention, circa 1992.  Health-care, global warming, immigration, education, and the whole sorry statist menu is also his agenda.  Back in the mid-nineties, I called Rush Limbaugh’s show one day to offer my opinion, since there was much talk about Colin Powell as a potential GOP candidate in the upcoming 1996 election cycle, and I asked quite bluntly: “What’s the difference between this guy and Bill Clinton?”  Rush argued that he didn’t think we could say with certainty, but if that’s so, what must we now conclude?  Apart from the fact that it has been clear for most of the last two decades that Colin Powell is a Republican in precisely the same fashion that Ted Kennedy had been a Catholic,  sharing precisely the same devotion to bedrock principles, the simple truth is that he loathes the so-called “right-wing,” which is to say: Average, everyday Americans who make the country work.

Another key to Powell’s confused philosophy is his claim that we must “help those less fortunate than us.”  Who is the “us” he describes?  I think it’s clear that he’s referencing people he perceives as well-off, so that what you have here is another appeal for higher taxes on the so-called “rich.”  What Colin Powell obviously doesn’t understand is that many people who fit that description on paper are entrepreneurs who do not have vast wealth.  Being that Powell has seldom held a non-political job since at least the 1980s, it’s easy to see how a man captive to the DC cocktail party circuit could conclude that a certain gross income equates to a significant wealth, but I know individual filers with seven-digit gross incomes that wind up living on well under six figures in order to keep the business going, since the vast majority of that revenue is plowed into paying for employees, supply vendors, and capital investments in plant and equipment.  In other words, this is much less money than a General or a Secretary of State receives, even retired.

Colin Powell speaks of a disconnect between the Republican Party and its people, and if there was one idea he conveyed with which I can whole-heartedly agree, this would be this notion of a party disconnected from its base, except that his concept of this disconnect is exactly backwards.  As expressed through his critique of so-called “birthers,” one is left with the sense that the General is accustomed to top-down organizations dictating the course and the direction without input from the poor saps below.  On the matter of the so-called “birthers,” he asked:

“Why do senior Republican leaders tolerate this kind of discussion within the party?”

General/Secretary Powell, has it occurred to you that the senior Republican leaders tried very hard to dismiss and discount the entire “birther movement?” Let us be honest shall we?

The left also calls those concerned with the eligibility of Barack Obama to the presidency “birthers,” but there is nothing inherently wrong, evil, misguided, or otherwise faulty about demanding that our politicians demonstrate their legal eligibility to office.  Why is it that Powell thinks this is somehow evidence of the great problems in the GOP?  What he ought to consider is that rather than being dismissive of the issue from the top down, had the party actually addressed the issue with diligence from the top, it would have been dispensed with in one way or another several years ago.  Instead, by acting to suppress the discussion as he insists they should (albeit apparently with insufficient vigor to suit Powell,) what happened instead was to keep the issue boiling without final resolution.

Powell is the sort of elitist who thinks that a political party is or ought to be like a military chain-of-command, but this neglects the distinctly populist view that has been the tradition of American politics since at least our founding.  The parties are conduits for the ideas and the will of their members, or at least that’s what they ought to be, and it’s the job of top party leaders to guide rank-and-file without trying to drive them like a herd, and to accept their input on the direction of the party, understanding that without them, there could be no party.  Part of what leads Powell to his mistaken conceptions of party structure is undoubtedly his military service, where one does as one is commanded, or else…  I think the bigger measure of his problem may be that he’s lived an insular existence within the Beltway of DC for thirty years, and he has come to believe that what he sees of the party in DC is representative of the party at large.  It isn’t, and it hasn’t been, despite the view one might develop on the cocktail party circuit.

Powell is a product of his political upbringing, and the pinnacle of his career’s successes came under two Presidents named Bush, but neither of them had been conservative, despite their strong inclinations to national security.  Both were Republicans of the mold to which Powell is inclined, which is to say that they remained in perpetual struggle with much of the base of their party over fiscal and social policies, because the Bush family is not comprised of conservatives with moderate leanings, but instead moderates with a bare few conservative notions.  If Powell is right about anything, it is that sense he expresses that he doesn’t belong in the Republican party, not because it has moved rightward as he asserts, but precisely because it hasn’t.  It’s because he and his ilk have moved instinctively leftward, away from the mainstream of those who consider themselves to be Republicans, never mind conservative.  Powell’s conceptualization of Romney’s 47% remarks may have been the giveaway, because Powell and his moderate friends are intent upon increasing that number given their continuing commitment to growing the welfare state.  If Republicans had a party leadership worth a tinker’s dam, they would call Powell aside and tell him to pack his bags, and move with deliberate energy to the other side of the aisle.  If this is an example of our alleged “friends” in the DC Republican elite,  truly, who needs enemies?

The one thing Powell’s interview makes plain is that he’s out of touch, and mortally so, with those who comprise the vast bulk of Republican voters, whatever their party identification.  It’s absurd to believe as Powell does that the whole of the party should rush to seek his favor.  Why should they?  What would such a surrender to his leanings gain for them?  An endorsement of Joe Biden in 2016?  Thank you, no.  I’d just as soon General/Secretary Powell depart the Republican party, or anything else even vaguely related to the concept of conservatism.  He’s not our friend, and offering him authority to speak for the Republican party merely provides him a platform from which to aggrandize himself, but nothing more.  I think we who are conservatives, and have been the lifeblood of the Republican party have had quite enough of this sort of paternalistic counseling.  Leave already, General Powell!  The elephant in this room is wearing a general’s stars, but it might do the retired Secretary of State well to understand that if the Republican party is broken, it is because he and his moderate friends have been running it for a generation or more.  Add to this his malignant misunderstanding of conservatism, and it’s well past time Powell is discharged.

 

1.]According to FBI statistics, in 2010, there were 348 murders with all rifles, which includes so-called “Assault Weapons” but also includes ordinary hunting rifles.  At that rate, it would take a decade to equal the number of murders by illegal immigrants in a single year.(click to return)

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